Sunday, August 24, 2014

Yoffie Vs The Strawmen

Over the years I have gotten the impression that Rabbi Yoffie is a nice guy who means well but really has no grasp on anything resembling critical thinking skills. He also comes across as somewhat complacent and lazy when it comes to many of the topics he chooses to write about for Huffington Post. His recent piece, "The Three Mistakes Atheists Make", is another example of his shoddy bias laden tripe. His "three mistakes" are a mixture of logical fallacies with little to no substance.

According to Yoffie these three are:
"1. They dismiss, often with contempt, the religious experience of other people.
2. They assert that since there are no valid religions but that religions do good things, the task of smart people is to create a religion without God -- or, in other words, a religion without religion.
3. They see the world of belief in black and white, either/or terms."

Even setting aside the vast sweeping generalizations that can be compared to equally stupid stereotypes like; "greedy jews" and "violent/criminal black", his three don't stand up to even the slightest examination. Even if every atheist automatically dismissed, contemptuously or not, so what? He destroys his own point without ever realizing it. For instance according to him, "Such arguments are legitimate, but they tell us nothing about the way that much of humankind experiences God...." Why does he single out this type of experience? People take hallucinogens and then claim all sorts of profound "insights". Are those automatically legitimate? Can't those be viewed as worthwhile "experiences". Most atheists I'm familiar with are unconcerned with such personal experiences so long as they are not used to influence public policies that will then effect everyone.

His second point is even more debatable and is far more nuanced than he allows. We don't all agree that religion in and of itself does good things. As I have commented on previously, most of the positive elements and effects are not innate to religion. Rather, the benefits are a side-effect of close social interaction. We certainly don't agree on approaches to dealing with religion when they encroach on social or political aspects of our society. I can only think of a few who seem interested in recreating religion without God. Idiots like Alain deBotton have been soundly refuted by numerous other atheists for just such an approach.

In point of fact, it is Eric Yoffie who sees things in black and white. There are very few atheists that use only a single argument let alone a single variation/approach to just one argument. This insistence is more of a reflection on theists like Yoffie then on atheists. Yoffie and others like him routinely fail to actually pay attention to the arguments and counter-arguments that are used by atheists. He seems to misunderstand and/or misrepresent what we say and write then turns around using such ignorance-laced crap to try to criticize us. These "three mistakes" are in fact not ours but his and his fellow travelers.

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